Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Inbound or Outbound Marketing?

I just heard a very impressive and convincing presentation from a web-marketing expert. His premise was that traditional outbound marketing is on the way out as an increasing number of people have filters in place to prevent it. Simultaneously these same people are becoming increasingly annoyed by intrusions into their space, time and consciousness. An increasingly popular method of marketing nowadays is “Inbound Marketing” - that which offers free valuable service, encouraging connection, interaction and enquiry. The theory is that those who connect due to their own volition will become much more loyal customers at much less a cost. Consequently much time is spent on blogs, websites and various other internet forums. Webinars are posted for education, questions are answered for free and items of interest forwarded.

Is it true though that these forms of marketing are rendering traditional media marketing redundant? I don’t think we can say that, as it relies on a certain degree of web access and web familiarity. For example, while this trend may be true for English-speaking people in the US, it is not true on the same scale with those who only speak Spanish in the US. Those Spanish-speakers who are regular web-users tend to post more than English-speakers, but represent a lesser proportion of the US Latino community. This means that a web-based approach, while looking to the future, does not effectively deal with the present.

The same is true of many countries and cultures around the world. Urban China is very web-savvy, yet there are still sizeable communities in China who are more or less cut off from the rest of the world, who do not speak Mandarin Chinese, and who are unable to use a computer. China is in fact an interesting case because it is at the forefront of blogging, yet this very approach does not reach a significant portion of its own immediate market. Therefore other strategies are necessary.

Inbound marketing is very important, and I believe its principles can be applied with great success to areas such as person to person grass-roots marketing as well. It is clear the web will have an increasingly important role to play worldwide. Yet, if we abandon other forms of marketing at this point, we will take ourselves out of very significant present markets and also become unable to develop a majority of brand new markets internationally.

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